Series: Tackling Work-Life Balance (18)
Let’s change our outlook by changing our daily greetings
Masayuki SATO, Associate Professor, Faculty of Human Sciences
For me, trying to improve Work-Life Balance is as difficult a challenge as dieting. I’m lucky if I last three days. Sometimes I don’t even make it through overnight before falling back into my old habits. Because it’s tough for me on my own, I want to say honestly to people around me, “Help me out! Let’s all help each other!” What I mean is, “For starters, why don’t we all make some simple changes?” The fact that I’m writing this on Sunday may be a sign that my work and private life are out of balance, but especially because today is Father’s Day, I’m trying to get this written quickly while my sons are doing their homework. Recently I spent a year in Germany on special research leave, and there I was able to eat dinner and take a bath with my sons every weekday evening, something that would be a rare occurrence in Japan. That made me do some serious thinking about Work-Life Balance. Having spent the four preceding years in Japan as an assistant academic director (executives of the Faculty) made me all the more sensitive to the cultural differences. Less than a year has gone by since I came back to Japan, and I’d like to share some feelings I had that still remain fresh.
１ Daily greetings make a difference
In Germany, on Friday people say “Schönes Wochenende!” (Have a wonderful weekend!) On Monday they ask one another how they spent their weekends. Meanwhile, in Japan a co-worker is likely to ask you “Have you finished that thing yet?” or “Are you busy right now?” before you have a chance to talk about the fun things you did on the weekend. I think we need to change our workplace atmosphere so that we’re not always taking pride in how busy we are, and can enjoy talking about the weekend and our hobbies together.
In fact, I think there may be a difference here between professors and office staff. To digress for a moment, I’d like to point out that when I was assistant academic director, I greatly enjoyed socializing with the office staff and talking about things other than work. I think we ought to establish “special office leave” as well as special research leave, so everyone has a chance to socialize, experience various positions and get to know how the other half lives, so to speak.
──To go back to what I was saying, exchanging greetings or small talk with people about your private life, as I described above, enables you to verify your own work-life balance. To go back to the diet metaphor, it’s like getting on a scale to check your weight.
２ Increase the number of places on campus where people can eat, drink and socialize
At the research department in Germany, people would often get together on the department premises and drink, usually on Fridays. The students brought their boyfriends and girlfriends, the professors brought their families, and I was encouraged to bring my family, so my sons got to play with the students. There was nothing unique about that research department, as there were places everywhere for people to socialize, such as beer halls in parks and at sports fields, and even in our apartment building (see photo on the left). It goes without saying that it’s easier for people to converse about daily life when they know one another’s families. To maximize the potential of a place like our university, I suggest increasing the number of places where faculty members, students, and staff can deepen their friendship while eating and drinking, and invite their families and people in the community from time to time.
──Of course, that won’t help someone who’s on a diet. Drinking is always fun. We’ll just have to exercise to work it off!
I have been in the habit of saying, about my own lack of work-life balance, “Well, I’m lucky enough to make a living doing what I love, so it can’t be helped.” But I think that by enjoying the weekends to the fullest, as I’ve been describing, I can boost my motivation and concentration and really do my best on weekdays.
■ Profile ■
Born in Akita Prefecture in 1975, Masayuki Sato graduated from Akita High School and did his undergraduate studies at the Faculty of Engineering, Niigata University. He then went on to complete his doctoral degree in Architecture at the Graduate School of Engineering in the University of Tokyo. Before assuming his current position, he was a coordinator entrusted with building a space for children at the Edo-Tokyo Museum, among other positions. He is the father of two sons, in fifth and third grade of elementary school.
（by SANKAKU NEWS No.20）